There has been a lot of Debate/Discussion on Marriage in the previous months, I thought i would post a discussion of Marriage according to Hindu Shastras/View, and my personal perspective on certain matters. Please feel free to discuss.
As per my limited knowledge, Marriage in the Hindu tradition is largely (But not exclusively), a family affair. This is where the parents and other family members of the Bride and Groom both meet, and discuss and somewhat “arrange”, a Vivah. Some are Pre-Arranged from Childhood and this i don’t agree with, this was not how i got married. Most are not arranged but more akin to a “introduction”, where the groom and bride are introduced to many suitors by their families before marriage is agreed upon, only of both parties are in agreement, this is how i got married. There are also marriages where the individuals have made their own choices for a partner and then seek approval for marriage from family members mostly the parents, or in some cases no approval is asked or some may meet with disapproval as well.
Now this is depending largely on Indian culture and its many variations. But what about the marriage types itself, if you are a Hindu there are a few option in our Shastras to choose from, these 4 are most commonly known to Hindus.
1. Prajāpatya rite
In this form of marriage, the parents of a young, eligible and healthy Vedic
student of high ethical standards and educational qualifications approach the
parents of a girl with similar characteristics with an offer of marriage. This is the
classical arranged marriage which is initiated by the boy’s parents.
2. Brahma rite
In this type of marriage arrangement it is the bride’s parents who approach the
parents of a prospective groom who has studied the Veda and is of good conduct
and a suitable match for their daughter. This is the classical arranged marriage
initiated by the girl’s parents.
3. Gāndharva rite
This is a cohabitation by mutual arrangement between two consenting adults who
are in love. This is the de facto form of marriage and is not necessarily
accompanied by any formal religious nuptial rites. Although for legal purposes
this form of marriage is recognised, the canon law recommends that the couple
undergo a proper Vedic marriage ceremony at some stage.
The 4th rite is still practiced among some disadvantaged communities
4. Arsha rite
In this case the parents of the bridegroom will offer the bride’s parents a ’bride
price’ (śulka) — in ancient times it was a pair of cattle. This usually occurs when
the bridegroom has no special qualities or has a few negative ones. This type of
marriage while being canonically permissible is discouraged by the injunction
never to sell one’s offspring, although the ’bride price’ is a form of compensation
rather than a purchase. Therefore in order to comply with the spirit of the Sacred
Law the bride must be completely willing. If she agrees then the ’bride price’ can
be considered as a ’gift’, If she is forced against her will then she is effectively
being sold and this is unequivocally condemned by the Scriptures.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidyalay), has this comment regarding Hindu Marriage.
There are many types of vivaha or weddings in the Hindu tradition. For example, the wedding of Shakuntala and Dushyanta is a gandharva-vivaha, a marriage by mutual consent, without any wedding ceremony. Many weddings in the West fall under this category. The most common wedding in the Vedic tradition, however, is the vaidika-vivaha, also known as the brahma-vivËha.
And there are also scope to end a marriage, according largely to Manu Smriti.
Though a man may have accepted a damsel in due form, he may
abandon her if she be blemished, diseased, or deflowered, and if she
have been given with fraud. (Manu 9;72)
If anybody gives away a maiden possessing blemishes without
declaring them, the bridegroom may annul that contract with the evilminded
giver. (Manu 9;73.)
When a faultless maiden has been married to a man who has a blemish
unknown before the marriage, and does not take to another man after
discovering it, shall be enjoined to do so by her relatives. If she has no
relations living she may go to live with another man of her own
accord. (Narada 12;96)
There are also clear shastric recommendations if Hinsa is committed to a Women, or forceful marriages, this for example.
A man who rapes an unwilling maiden should by executed, but a man
who spoils a willing maiden who is his [social] equal, should not
undergo capital punishment. (Manu 8.364)
Where a damsel is taken by force, but is not solemnly married
according to religious rites, she may be given in marriage to another,
for she is considered as a virgin. (Vasishtha 17;73)
Now these are Smirit examples, and a large amount of the actual ceremony and procedures are listed in the Grahasutras ect. These are all to be taken in context of time and place, the main criteria advised is Dharmah, and Dharmah should be our upmost standard when considering anything in life. I think this comes from the Mahabharatta :
Adroho samasta bhūteṣu karmaṇā manasā girā |
Anugrahaśca dānam ca tām dharma sanātanaḥ ||
Sanātana dharma is:— non-prejudice to any living being, by word,
deed or thought, compassion for all and a charitable disposition.
Now for the question of Same sex Marriage, Obviously nearly all the Dharmah Shastras are “domestic, heterosexual based processes involving progeny”. But i personally think that the Gandharvah Vivah has some scope of including same sex marriages, the question of progeny is also answerable in today’s age for same sex couples. So maybe the Vaidika Vivah is not for same sex couples, but in Hindu texts there are many social agreements or friendship or civil unions in which two people make formal vows of friendship and support sanctioned by a priest — we already have a precedent in the Ramayana in which Rāma and Sugrīva have a commitment ceremony in front of the sacred fire presided over by Hanumān, these are valid and can be (Should be IMHO) accepted by the larger Hindu community.
Even the Pancha Maha Yagnas can be performed by Same Sex couples, these are generally non gender based inclusive Yagnas, and is a recommendation for a Grahstya life stage.
PitruYajña — The fact of our birth, and the loving care, protection and nurturing of our parents obligates us to them and to our grandparents and all the other members of our family. This debt is discharged by procreation to continue the line, by honoring our parents, seeking their guidance, supporting them, caring for them in their old age and by venerating them and our ancestors after they have died. Thereafter the performance of the śrāddha ceremonies to honour their memory.
Brahma Yajña — Our sages (Rishis) have dedicated themselves to the path of enlightenment for the welfare of all beings. These magnanimous sages have performed intense austerities to realize the truth and have passed down their wisdom through their disciples in order that we too may spiritually develop, unfold and progress towards enlightenment. The debt that we owe them is called “brahma’ which means ‘immense’. It is discharged by taking the trouble to study their teachings daily, and to teach them to others. Pursuit of a religious education or at the very least making the attempt at being culturally informed frees one from this intellectual debt.
Deva Yajña — The Devas are the cosmic forces which administer and govern the universe under the direction of the Supreme Lord. All these forces of nature and cosmic principles are rewarded by making daily
offerings to them to show our gratitude and to help us cultivate an awareness of the underlying cosmic consciousness behind all phenomenal appearances. In the Gīta Kṛṣṇa says that the one who enjoys the bounty of the gods without offering them anything in return is verily a thief!
Manuṣya yajña — We are by nature social animals and cannot live in isolation. Everything that we enjoy comes to us through the agency of other people. We are therefore indebted to our fellow humans and have the duty to ensure that they are at least clothed, fed and sheltered. By welcoming and offering hospitality to strangers and by caring for the poor and the needy whenever the occasion arises, we discharge this social debt. An orthodox Hindu should try to feed a stranger every day. There are three minimal requirements which must be offered to a guest; a seat, water to drink, and kind words. (See next section on Hospitality)
Bhūta yajña — And lastly we are part of an environment which is made up of the five elements and consists of plant and animal life (bhūtas = elementals). This ecosystem is vital to our survival and thus it is our duty to continually protect it. This is done through tree planting programs, correct farming methods and protection of wildlife, decreasing our consumption of valuable resources. In our homes we can take the effort to limit the amount of water, gas and electricity consumed, by recycling and avoiding the use of plastic bags etc.
Now the most common Mantras chanted in the Vedica Vivah are from the Rigveda, mostly M10.S85, and this there is a personification of Surya and Soma and the bride and groom, which itself to me is not much concerned with the marriage of MAN and WOMAN but masculine and feminine energies, Also the main and most important value and purpose of the Hindu Marriage is Friendship, In the North Indian version the final step of the SaptaPadi we recite the following: “Take the seventh step with me for friendship”. I think this is what matters most in a Hindu relationship, with friendship is the Hindu relationship of marriage built.